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Saving lives and sharing life

Pregnancy centers vary in their approaches to evangelism


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Saving lives and sharing life

Jodie Zicker was the director at a pregnancy center and had studied Biblical counseling, but she still was nervous about interacting with clients at her California center. “I battled fear. Every time I went to the pregnancy center, I would get butterflies in my tummy. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, what if somebody comes in? … What am I going to say?’” she recalled, looking back at her experience working at the center in the early 2000s.

As a new Christ-follower at the time, Zicker felt a responsibility to share the gospel with the women who came to the center. But she hadn’t grown up as a Christian and didn’t have much experience. The center’s intake form didn’t help her much. It prompted her to ask clients practical, open-ended questions that would lead to a discussion of spiritual things and open an opportunity to share the gospel. The training manual did not include a clear presentation of the gospel, and Zicker felt pressure as a counselor to come up with the right words in the moment.

Now the director of training for Hope National, Zicker prioritizes training volunteers in evangelism. She and a number of other pro-lifers think presenting the gospel should be more of a priority at pregnancy centers.

“It can be a challenge to stay focused on your mission. I think we all have to define what that is,” said Mary Lou Hendry, a former pregnancy center director and now director of sanctity of human life for First Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child, an organization that works with pregnancy centers throughout the state. “For me, it is to stay focused … on the gospel.”

Pregnancy center staff approach sharing the gospel in a variety of ways. Some make a point to ask each woman about her spiritual background, to pray for the client, and to offer her a Bible. Other centers make sure every woman will hear the gospel during her first visit.

“Statistically speaking, about 50 percent of the time, maybe in that first visit, we’ll have an opportunity to share the gospel,” said Patrick Eades, executive director of the Georgia pregnancy center Skylark. “Fifty percent of the time, our team does not feel like the Holy Spirit is directing them in that first visit to communicate the gospel. … And then, about 80 percent of the time, some sort of spiritual discussion of some sort will come up, not necessarily sharing the gospel.” Sherry Auten, Skylark’s director of nursing, said the timing for those conversations depends on how open the woman seems to spiritual topics.

Ann Beall, director at the Kolbe Center in Georgia, said counselors at her center don’t present the gospel consistently with the women who come in. “Our belief is that they will get the gospel through us being the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said. When women ask the pregnancy center staff why they’re serving them, “that opens the door for me to share Christ with them,” Beall added. Out of the estimated 20 to 25 moms they see a week, she said the question probably comes up two to three times.

Sometimes pregnancy center workers find evangelism daunting—especially when there’s such a small window of time available with each woman. Horizon Pregnancy Clinic in California has begun to use a curriculum that streamlines client interactions and makes the gospel a regular part of each appointment, nurse manager Shannon Stratton said. Other centers are training staff and volunteers so they feel more comfortable broaching the topic. Monica Henderson, executive director of the Kentucky center BsideU for Life, said one staff member who spent 23 years in Africa has provided feedback on how to present the gospel in a small window of time.

Julie Ladd, director at the center Full Circle Medical Center in Tennessee, said explicit gospel conversations happen occasionally but are not really the norm: “Our No. 1 goal this year is to be able to present the gospel more often.” Staff and volunteers have asked for practical tools on how to work the gospel into a conversation. Ladd recently invited a friend who works at Fellowship of Christian Athletes to come to the pregnancy center to talk about simple evangelism. The friend shared stickers with shapes of a cross and circles that can prompt questions and help open up conversations.

Zicker said when she chose abortion in 1992, she did it out of fear of what people would think and because she believed she was making the best decision for herself at that time. “I never thought about my body … being God’s or anything like that,” she said.

Hope National’s manual, called Focus on the Heart, has an intake sheet designed to lead to gospel conversations. Zicker said the material challenged her to rely more on the Holy Spirit than her own understanding. She realized that only the gospel—not her well-spoken words—could ultimately change a woman’s heart and cause her to make God the authority in her life.


Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.

@leahsavas

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SROB2884

Our tag line at Care Net Pregnancy Center of Houston is "Saving lives today . . . and for eternity." We strongly believe that if all we do is save lives we have failed to fulfill the Christian mission God has called us to. For that reason all our staff and volunteer counselors are trained in sharing the Gospel and, with permission first from the client, God has enabled us to present the plan of salvation to around 80% of those who come in our doors year after year. Although there may not be one single reason for that, we believe that a high priority on daily prayer and the spiritual life of the center, as well as an exceptional volunteer training program are primary contributors.

RSIE4835

Can I suggest a follow-up article on this topic? I'd like to see some practical "how to's" on sharing the gospel. For instance, show the intake sheet from Hope National that you mention in your last paragraph. Or show some sample gospel materials that some PRCs use.